The Sheik and the Runaway Princess(3)

By: Susan Mallery


“Exceptions are made for one as foolish as you.”

He motioned to the man still standing next to her. In the split second before he reached for her, Sabrina spun on her heel and began to run. She had no destination in mind, just a burning need to be as far away from her captors as possible.

She heard hoofbeats behind her. Fear added speed, but not enough. She’d barely gone twenty yards when she was swept up onto a horse and held tightly against the hard, unforgiving chest of the nomad.

“Where, exactly, did you plan to go?” he asked.

She squirmed, but he didn’t release her. Instead she found herself getting tangled in his robes.

“If you continue to try to get away, I’ll tie you and drag you behind my horse.”

She could feel the strength of him, and his heat. He was as unyielding as the desert. Just her luck, she thought glumly, and stilled.

Tossing her hair out of her face, she glared at him. “What do you want from me?”

“First, I would like you to remove your knee from my stomach.”

She glanced down and saw that her jean-clad knee was indeed pushing against his midsection. It felt as if she were butting up against a rock, but she didn’t share that thought with him. Instead she shifted slightly, so that she was sitting on the saddle, facing his left.

She sucked in a deep breath. The sun had slipped below the horizon. There was no way she could escape now. Not at night. She was lost, thirsty, hungry and held captive by who knows who. At least it wasn’t raining.

“Ah,” he said softly. “So you can be reasoned with. A most pleasant attribute in a woman. And rare.”

“You mean beating all your wives doesn’t keep them in line? What a surprise.”

She glared at him as she spoke, telling herself that she didn’t care if his gaze narrowed slightly.

His features were dark and hard, like a rock shaped by the blowing winds of the desert. His headdress covered his hair, but she suspected it would be dark, perhaps to his collar, perhaps a little shorter. He had broad shoulders, and he carried himself like a man used to the weight of many burdens.

“For a woman completely at my mercy, you are either incredibly brave or incredibly foolish.”

“You’ve already accused me of being foolish,” she reminded him. “Rather unjustly if you ask me.”

“I did not ask you. Besides, what would you call someone who heads out into the desert without a guide, or even the most basic of supplies?”

“I had a horse and—”

He cut her off with a slight tilt of his chin. “Or the skill to keep them,” he finished.

Rather than answer, she glanced over his shoulder. The men he’d left when he’d chased her had started to set up camp. Already they had a small fire burning and were setting a pot to boil.

“You have water?” she asked, licking her dry lips.

“Yes, and food. Unlike you, we kept possession of our supplies.”

She couldn’t seem to tear her gaze away from the liquid being poured into the pot. “Please,” she whispered.

“Not so fast, my desert bird. Before you partake of our meager offerings, I want to make sure you don’t fly away again.”

“As you already pointed out, where would I go?”

“Not having a destination didn’t stop you before.”

He dismounted. Before she could slide to the ground, he pulled a length of rope from his voluminous robes and grabbed her wrists.

“Hey,” she protested, tugging against his actions. “You don’t have to do this. I’m not going anywhere.”

“I intend to make sure of that.”

She tried to pull her arms away so he couldn’t reach her wrists, but he moved too quickly and tied her. Then she shifted too far back in the saddle and started to slide off the horse. The man caught her by the front of her shirt and pulled her toward him. She lost her balance and fell heavily against him. He didn’t even grunt.

Wrapping one arm around her waist, he lowered her to the ground. While she was still trying to catch her breath, he secured her ankles together, then straightened.

“Wait here,” he told her and led his horse toward the makeshift camp.

“What?” she yelled, wiggling on the ground, unable to get up on her own. “You can’t leave me here.”

He studied her with his dark eyes, then smiled. “I would say that I can.”

Stunned by disbelief, Sabrina watched as he joined the other men. He said something she couldn’t hear and they chuckled in response. Anger replaced the fear burning in her chest. She would show him, she vowed, tugging on her fastenings and kicking at the sand. She would get free and find her way back to Bahania and have him shot. Or hanged. Or maybe both…at the same time. Her father might not pay much attention to her but he wouldn’t be happy about her being kidnapped.

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